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Primer on Politics

To help you be a more effective participant in government affairs, here is a brief primer on politics.

Your Eligibility to Vote

Consider these questions:

What should I do first?

Find out how to register. You may vote in this federal election if you:

  • are a Canadian citizen
  • will be 18 or older on election day, Monday, May 2, 2011
  • are registered to vote

Why should I vote this time?

There are three reasons why you should vote now and every time: (1) Every vote counts. (2) Every election is important. (3) Living in a democratic country where voting is a right you have a responsibility to be involved in the democratic process of choosing the country’s leaders

What’s the big hurry?

The political process begins a long time before the ballot is actually cast. If you wait, two things can happen: (1) you’ll miss this year’s political campaign and you’ll miss considering the issues that affect your life, and (2) delay could leave you with no choice as to the finalists.

Your Involvement in the Process

The political process is something you must learn about in order to become a wise voter and a more responsible citizen. Often in public elections, particularly local ones, there will be issues as well as candidates voted on. Here are several points to help you understand the system.

1. In Canada there are five major political parties—Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Bloc Québécois and the Greens. Find out the kinds of people who are active in the parties and why. Also find out what the party platform is.

3. Attend your political rallys, if your city has them. Find out when and where, and attend! Your choice is limited at the polls by the decisions made by others unless you get involved at the grass-roots level.

4. Know the issues. Discover what is being discussed. See if there are other issues that ought to be included. Don’t consider just one point of view. Learn, consider, seek guidance. Casting a vote is far more serious than many people realize.

5. Know the candidates. Equally important, know the people around the candidates. Encourage good men and women to enter politics and work to help them. Organize political discussion groups. Consider now taking your turn as a candidate or party worker when the time is right.

6. Familiarize yourself with voting and political terminology and procedure.

7. Become active in politics. Do volunteer work at party headquarters. Contribute financially to a party and/or deserving candidates. Ask to be assigned to the team of a suitable candidate. Think of ways to get out the vote and work with your local level party leaders.

8. Finally, help destroy the myth that “politics are dirty.” The fact is: politics are essential. We need to be concerned and involved in promoting a responsible an good government. You simply have to realize that the political process is the way to attain that objective.

Remember you’ve got to do more than talk about politics. You’ve got to vote and act intelligently.

This text is adapted from an article prepared by James D. Cannon, an American Politician (1909-1998)